It started six years ago when we watched The Holiday; the Nancy Meyers film where Kate Winslet swaps her idyllic English cottage for Cameron Diaz’s luxe LA mansion. I’d secured my first book deal, my husband Ben had taken a sabbatical and our first child, Barnaby, was just a toddler. Summer was approaching but we’d been parents long enough to know that holidays in a hotel + him = hideous. One of my best friends lived in LA and we wanted to visit her without spending a fortune: house swapping seemed the perfect solution.
We signed up to www.homeexchange.com (the site they use in the film), wrote a description of our home, uploaded pictures and stated where and when we wanted to go. It was like internet dating, but with properties we were attracted to rather than people. After juggling several suitors we made a match; a few emails and Skype calls to talk about logistics later and our flights were all booked!
The trip was amazing and we’ve become house exchange bores ever since. We’ve even converted lots of our friends – including Ashling. We love that we can stay in comfortable, stylish homes in far-flung places with everything that makes life easy at our fingertips (kids toys! bikes! a car!) We’ve also found it a friendly, respectful community of like-minded families.
Since LA, we’ve house swapped to New York, Portland, Oregon and Canada and various weekend swaps in the UK. We’re house-swapping to America again this summer to Charlottesville, Virginia, for the wedding of my LA friend who was the reason our love affair with home exchange began.
Funny, because we’re wed to it for life now, too!
3 House Swap Do’s and Don’t’s
Do…think how much you’re saving in accommodation fees. Apart from the £100 annual fee, it’s FREE! (There’s an offer on at the moment if you want a 2 week trial).
Don’t… obsess over your stuff. Lock away private or precious things, but remember most small accidents can be easily covered using the money you’ve saved.
Do… plan ahead. While it’s sometimes possible to organise a last minute exchange, it’s better to organise your swap early.
Don’t… underestimate how time-consuming it is. You’ll have to send lots of emails – it’s all part of the process.
Do… ‘flirt’. Compliment their home and show off both your house – and your home-town’s – best bits.
Don’t…say yes to the first person that asks – trust that in time you’ll find the ‘One’.